Busy freeways, crowded intersections, and slow-moving roads. California is vaunted as being one of the worst states when it comes to traffic.
There may be a solution surfacing, however; the San Jose-based company LYT is trying to reduce emergency response times and make it faster to travel via public transportation.
LYT, which labels itself as a next generation mobility company, is introducing a new traffic signal technology that would reduce the time for emergency response vehicles, particularly ambulances, and public buses to arrive at their destinations.
The technology that LYT develops is a GPS-tracked microchip that can be placed inside ambulances, buses, or any other motorized vehicle. The chip interacts with databases inside traffic signals, and can tell the traffic light to turn green when there is an oncoming ambulance or public transportation vehicle.
So when an ambulance needs to get to a destination faster, instead of yielding at a stoplight and lengthening the response time, the ambulance can go through on a green. The idea is that the ambulance will save time getting to an emergency if it’s given a clearer path to the destination with fewer red lights.
The same works with public transportation. Many people disregard taking the bus because it takes too long. But if the bus was able to go through mostly green lights on their routes, then it would likely reduce travel times. People may be more encouraged to take buses if they were quicker.
The LYT technology could also easily be implemented in other cities across America, such as Phoenix, which is also known for having its share of traffic.
LYT spokesperson Bobby Lee said the technology is “a cloud-based software platform that (aims to) help orchestrate different important modes of transportation.”
Lee, who has worked at the company for nearly two years, said LYT is in a newer industry called “intelligent transportation systems,” or ITS. The industry is a casual one, Lee said, meaning that it isn’t one of the major industries such as health or education.
But ITS is crucial for cities to develop a “smart city” model, Lee said. “Smart cities” are ones with better transportation solutions and easier mobility for citizens. “Those are the (people) who are looking at how (to) measure, optimize, deploy, change and influence behavior,” Lee said.
LYT works in conjunction with local governments to implement the technology in the city’s public transportation. So far, LYT has been implemented into both the Valley Transit Authority in San Jose and into emergency vehicles in Sacramento. The statistics have shown results.
In San Jose, a study of LYT’s technology has shown a 20% reduction in travel times of the buses. The people who take public transit as opposed to using their own vehicle can expect to spend less on fuel, which Lee said equates to a roughly 14% decrease in fuel consumption as well as a 2% reduction in emissions.
“For the city of San Jose, you know we've saved hundreds and thousands of staff hours going out to the intersections,” Lee said of the technology.
In Sacramento, Lee said there was a boulevard in between I-80 and the U.S. Route 50 where ambulances would have a particularly tough time arriving to emergencies through traffic. A study of LYT’s effectiveness on that boulevard specifically showed a 42-second reduction in average response times for ambulances, as well as an average speed increase of about 69%.
“We saw some really amazing results,” Lee said. “What we're doing here is life saving, but it also improves quality of life. And this is innovative technology for our communities.”
The best part about the LYT’s technology is that it doesn’t take a long time to implement. In fact, Lee said, implementing the cloud-based program could take only a couple of days in a large metropolitan area such as San Jose or Sacramento.
A majority of the technology is already built into the framework of traffic lights. What LYT does is connect those lights with emergency response vehicles and public transit.
So where does LYT go from here? Lee said the company has been reaching out to local governments in California to try to get the program integrated into the city's databases.
Lee has high hopes for the company, because he said they are not only cracking open a new innovative field of study, but also are on the footsteps of a future where cars, emergency vehicles and public transportation can all share the road in a more intuitive way.
“We're going to be able to connect all of them and no one's going to have to make a decision of ‘do I want to prioritize this road, do I want to provide better transit on this road?’” Lee said. “We're going to want to get in there and help fix the issue citywide.”